Volume 92, Issue 86
Thursday, March 11, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Canada's own sexpert takes pleasure chest on the road
Gazette file photo
By Christina Vardanis
"There was the female who asked if she could lose her Ben-wah balls and if she'd ever get them back again," relates Sue Johanson, the adviser behind the Sunday night Women's Network television show Sex With Sue. "I said, 'Yeah, they'll plop into the toilet and crack your toilet bowl.'"
While most people spend Sunday night with their washing machine, Johanson answers questions about sexually transmitted diseases, vibrators and G-spots. She's made other people's sex lives her business, for reasons which are selfless, rather than sensational.
Johanson stipulates she fell into her role as sex guide extraordinaire purely by accident. This seems to make sense, as on-air sex counsellor isn't exactly a prominent booth at public school job fairs. In 1969, her daughter's friend came to her, terrified she was pregnant. Birth control was not legal at the time and since the societal norm was to "send her away," Johanson experienced first hand the consequences of adolescent sex.
"It was so traumatic, getting help for her and I thought to myself, how does anyone else who doesn't have a 'friendly Mom' in the neighbourhood get through this?"
With co-operation from her Department of Public Health, Johanson opened the first birth control clinic for teens which utilized the health room in a local high school. Its confidential, drop-in, no-charge policy helped its popularity skyrocket. Soon, the clinic was serving kids from all over southern Ontario.
"We didn't advertise because we didn't have to," Johanson explains. "The grapevine among teens is much better than any public advertisement could ever be."
After talking to countless teens about their sexual experiences, Johanson came to the realization none of them had a clue what sexual activity entailed. Unsatisfied with her role, she returned to university in the United States to study sexual education and went to work Toronto classrooms as a guest teacher. Despite the volatile atmosphere around teenage sex at the time, none of her actions were met with controversy.
"Parents know their kids need sexual education, but they also know how hard it is to do it themselves," she reasons.
Word of Johanson's lectures spread and Toronto radio show Q107.1 FM offered her a spot hosting a regular show. The Sunday Night Sex Show ran for 14 years, ending last January and garnering an audience of 300,000 listeners per week. From this spurned countless books and her call-in show on WTN, which began four and a half years ago.
As Johanson rounds out her third decade as the average person's sexual authority, she can credit her success to her up-front, no-nonsense approach to dealing with topics which are still considered taboo.
"I go where sex education doesn't go in schools," she states. "But the information is accurate and factual. When we are talking about things like vibrators, masturbation, homosexuality, abortion or transsexuals, it's from an informational point of view, not a titillating turn-on."
With the live format of Sex With Sue, Johanson faces the pressure of listening to her caller's problems, which are sometimes quite unusual and delivering her advice on the spot. Although she never loses her composure, she admits even after 30 years, some stories still catch her off guard.
"There are times when I'm gasping and sputtering," she admits. "There are times when I'm thinking, where was her head? What was she thinking, or was she thinking at all?"
Today in the McKellar Room, Johanson will discuss misconceptions about sexuality, the lack of high school sex education, popular sexual myths and the embarrassing aspects of sex which are normally kept under the covers. Johanson says talking to university crowds is a true highlight of her job. "Kids are so responsive and enthusiastic and glommed on," she enthuses.
With no end to her educational journey in sight, Johanson will continue lubricating the path to sexual well-being.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999